A working definition of a healing hospital is a place or rather a holistic and integrated environment where "Healing will take place more quickly, thoroughly, and meaningfully" with the entire staff ".... charged with the promotion of healing by creating an overall healing environment" ( Jacobs, 2009). In essence therefore the healing hospital differs from the conventional hospital in that it provides for a multitude of levels of advancing the healing process; which includes, the community, the staff and a variety of technical and design aspects for placing healing into an advantageous context.
Therefore, a healing hospital will provide not only for the physical aspects of healing but will also make provision for the psychological, social and spiritual aspects that integrate the various components into a comprehensive and inclusive process. In this sense the healing hospital has been described as an overall healing environment (Jacobs, 2009).
The following discussion will provide an overview of the components of the healing hospital, as well as the possible issues and problems that have to be met in order to create and provide a service of this nature.
2. Components of a Healing Hospital
The healing hospital has been associated with the vision of a "Culture of Health" and with a more daring and innovative approach to healthcare than is usually the norm in our complex and often overly specialized and compartmentalized world ( MCDH Adopts "Healing Hospital" Wellness Program). One of the central components of this culture of health is education. The education process is used in an integrated way to assist patients in the hospital as well as in the wider community to create an improved health environment. For example,
...each hospital department uses simple educational tools for patients and visitors that create health awareness and inspire healthy living. The program includes education at schools through books and programs that have an important impact on children and their parents, further helping to create a healthy community. (MCDH Adopts "Healing Hospital" Wellness Program).
Therefore, the central concept is that the hospital becomes more than a collection of departments that deal with aspects of health and illness and rather becomes a "healing environment" (Erbest, 2008, p. 77), where the patient feels safe and comfortable and where the staff is fully committed to the process of caring and healing.
The latter aspect is possibly one of the most important concepts in the healing hospital. It is vital that the staff of these hospitals should be fully aware of the concept of the healing hospital and that they are also well trained and fully committed to the idea of integrated and holistic healthcare. Furthermore, a healing hospital is one that promotes a culture of healing and is not merely a healing facility (Erbest p. 77). The hospital is also seen in terms of community and as a place where "...patients, their families and friends, caregivers (including managers and the board), and the community can all journey toward wellness, with all parties having joint ownership in the process and the experience" ( Zarren).
Eberest ( 2008) refers to three essential components of a healing hospital. These are; a healing physical environment; the integration of work design and technology and a culture of "Radical Loving Care" ( Eberst, 2008, p. 77).
The aspect of a physical healing environment includes a number of factors that are not normally featured in conventional hospitals. Among these is the possibly of a wide range of alternative therapies that may be offered and the quality of care that goes beyond a treatment of symptoms. This includes advice and education in terms of psychological and social issues which may affect the health of the patient.
However, an essential component is the fact that these hospitals should be seen as a healing environment and this includes the integration of design and technology into the overall framework of healing in the hospital: for example, the use of biofeedback education for stress reduction. The surgery department of one hospital offers a " ...guided imagery CD to start the healing process before surgery, and obstetrics nurses use healing touch to quiet fussy newborns" (Mendocino Coast District Hospital Becomes One of Nation's First 'Healing Hospitals')
The integration of technology and design into the caring environment is also extremely important. As Eberst (2008, p. 78) states, the healing hospital should be constructed in order to "... provide additional privacy and security for patients and to use technology to promote the healing environment." The example is given of elevators in the hospital that are situated in such a way as or provide both privacy and security for the patient.
Paramount to the healing hospital is the holistic integration of its functionality. This includes the concept of radical loving care. In effect this means the following. There is a deeper level of engagement on the part of the staff and a more intimate and intense level of care and interaction with the patient. Aesthetics also plays an important role in creating an environment that is conducive to healing.
Another vital component that has already been referred to is the extension of the hospitals as an integral part of the community. As the CEO of Mendocino Coast District Hospital states;
...the Healing Hospital program is an extension of the hospital's wellness strategy. It gives us the ability to add meaningful depth to our existing program through its emphasis on a holistic approach to achieving and maintaining good health. It also enables us to extend our reach further into the community.
(Mendocino Coast District Hospital Becomes One of Nation's First 'Healing Hospitals')
2.1 The Element of Spirituality
In line with the concept of holistic healing, the aspect of an individual's spirituality is one that should be catered for within the context of a healing hospital. Spirituality is an essential component in the lives of many patients and forms part of the healing process. A biblical phrase that underlines the necessity for balance between the spiritual and the physical in order to maintain health is the following from Proverbs: "A sound heart is the life of the flesh..." (Proverbs 14:30). The literal meaning of sound heart is " heart of health," which implies a healthy equilibrium between the physical and the emotional aspects of human being, such as is supplied by the spiritual dimension (Proverbs 14: 30: Parallel Translations). This short phrase therefore sums up the integrated and holistic view that is central to the concept of a healing hospital. One could also refer to the word "Shalom" in the Old Testament. This word mean "wholeness, well-being, vigour and vitality in all dimensions of human life, and is caused by being in right relationship with God and other people" (BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE RELATIONSHIPS). This emphasizes the importance of the spiritual component from an holistic perspective.
3. Challenges in Creating a Healing Environment
On the surface it would seem that one of the most formidable challenges facing the creation and running of a healing hospital is the expense of setting up an environment of this nature and training the staff. In order to provide the wide range of services and the level of care expected in these hospitals means that staff, equipment and other expensive issues have to be implemented. However, if we consider the concept of holistic health in relation to the community, this would seem to reduce this problem considerably. The essence of the healing hospital is to educate and involve the community in dealing with their own health issues as well -- which in turn would in the long run lead to the a reduction of health costs as the health of the community improves. This is the view of Zarren ( p 1) puts forward.…